Matt Painter's crew continues to play their hearts out down the stretch as Purdue almost got the upset against the 7th ranked Wolverines. Going into last night, many people had no idea what Purdue team was going to show up: the streaky, immature, poor decision making team we've seen all season, or the hard-nosed team that went balls to the walls that took down Wisconsin at home.
Michigan started the game by scoring the first five points, and with a handful or turnovers and missed shots things seemed like they might start to slip away. But then came The Chooch Train. Sandi Marcius came to play last night and gave it his hall. Chooch scored all seven of our points before the first TV timeout and brought Purdue back to a 9-7 deficit. Michigan then went on a hot streak again and started to pull away, but Purdue fought back and rallied to a 34-30 lead at halftime thanks to the effort by 'Croatian Sensation'.
In the second half, Chooch went down with an ankle injury, tried to come back, but was not the same afterword. Terone Johnson then put the team on his back and carried the Boilers to an almost upset. Johnson finished with 32 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists. Easily the best game of Terone's career and I think it's pretty safe to say that Terone loves playing against Michigan. Terone had an opportunity to tie the game at the end with a 3, but sadly he was thinking about the shot before he took it which led to a turnover.
Even though Purdue played lights out this entire game, Michigan still has one of the best players in the nation with Trey Burke. Burke took over in the end and we were unable to stop him. Nik Stauskas got hot from beyond the arc as well, and the combination of those two put the dagger in Purdue.
Despite the loss this was another monumental step forward for this team. Every player on that court played with heart, passion, and gave a shit. Even A.J. Hammons, although he didn't play that great. One of my favorite highlights of the game was when Hammons hit the ground for a loose ball. That is Purdue basketball; those are the hustle plays we live by. Maybe Hammons finally understands how to play for Painter and what Coach wants for him. I look forward to seeing what kind of effort he gives in the last few games. Hopefully it's like last night, and hopefully that effort continues into the off-season where he needs to on strength and conditioning as well as his overall game. Hammons is good, but is still very very raw and needs to work on both offense and defense. We'll see how he finishes this season.
The player I was most excited for in this freshmen class had a great game as well. Rapheal Davis was a monster on the glass and had some huge and-1 plays down the stretch; Davis finished with 15 points and 9 boards. Davis left it all on the floor this game and was not going to let Michigan get away with easy buckets, or let them stop him. Davis has become a lead-by-example kind of guy, and I love it. His jump shot is still a work in progress, but when he puts the ball on the ground he is a huge threat to the defending team.
Outside of Davis, Chooch, and Terone no one really could contribute on offense. Ronnie Johnson assisted well and played good defense and managed to turn the ball over only once. He finished with 5 points and 7 assists. RJ has played consistently well throughout Big Ten play, and managing only one turnover against the best point guard in college ball is pretty impressive.
This was a disappointing loss, there's no doubt about it. But if you would've told me three weeks ago that'd we'd lose to Michigan by three I would've probably laughed in your face and said you're on drugs or something. Coach Painter has these guys going the right way. Post season play seems unlikely, but if Purdue can beat Minnesota at home this weekend and get a win during the Big Ten Tournament then maybe we can get a bid for the CBI. Post season or not, I love how this team has been playing and where things are going. The future looks bright again for this squad, and basketball is becoming fun once more at Purdue.